Hip-Hop Is Getting Whiter, but That Doesn’t Mean the Genre Is Doomed

Dave Bry, New Republic, February 18, 2014

Earlier this week, in a review of a concert by a white rap-reggae duo from Boston, New York Times’ Jon Caramanica addressed “a phenomenon that’s been happening for some time—white rappers performing for predominantly white audiences.” But Aer’s recent performance at Irving Plaza took place in a slightly different atmosphere. The success of Seattle’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at last month’s Grammys, where they won three awards in rap categories, was “the sort of pigs-flying moment that gets prognosticators to prognosticating, and self-designated cultural protectors to fuming. Here was a pop-inclined white hip-hop act that had leapfrogged to juggernaut status in barely a year and in turn become a bellwether of racial shifts of in the genre.”

Caramanica predicts there’s much more this—white rappers “performing to an almost exclusively white audience”—to come. He’s right.

To hip-hop traditionalists, this is a nightmare come true. Houston rap legend Scarface, of the pioneering gangsta rap group Geto Boys, sounded the alarm recently in comments to the website VladTV. “Hip-hop is hip-hop,” he said. “And it ain’t going anywhere, you know what I mean. The face might change in 25 years. You know, hip-hop’s gonna be white in 25 years. It’s gonna be all white kids. No more—it’s gonna be like rock n’ roll. To find a Geto Boys record in 25 years is gonna be rare. Some of you don’t even believe that shit. You better fuckin’ believe it.”

The fear, as Caramanica noted, is not new. It reared its head five years ago when a blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid from the Philadelphia suburbs named Asher Roth had a top-20 hit with a rap song called “I Love College.” Ten years before that, of course, Eminem gave rap its own Elvis, selling millions upon millions of records, becoming not only the biggest rap star on the planet, but perhaps the biggest pop star of any sort.


{snip} In 2013, for the first time in the 55-year-history of the Billboard Hot 100, not one black artist lodged a number-one single. (Of the eleven songs that held the spot for some portion of the year, four were hip-hop, and four featured black singers or rappers in guest roles.)


Some have even gone so far as to anoint Macklemore some sort of savior of hip-hop, a Great White Hope who will help the genre evolve into a more enlightened form. A recent Dallas Morning News headline sums up this perspective: “Macklemore shows hip-hop doesn’t need to be homophobic, violent in Dallas concert.”

Like Serch said, with so many more white people listening to rap than black, more and more white people will make it (and, it’s hard to deny that its easier to sell a white rap star to millions and millions of white consumers than it is a black one). So let’s imagine that, in 25 years, most of the people making it are white, and that, like rock, it’s thought of as a white form. Shouldn’t we expect black artists will be on to creating whatever next new form might challenge the status quo the way rap did, and the way rock n’ roll did before that? {snip}


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • sbuffalonative

    Another lose-lose.

    Whites adopting black ‘culture’ and whites will once again be vilified for expropriating black culture.

  • pcmustgo

    as if whites doomed rock music

  • Frank_DeScushin

    Any black person that complains about appropriation of what other people invented should instantly turn in their phone, computer, TV, car, radio….

    • Martel

      Many actually do, Detroit was quite prosperous before most blacks decided to stop appropriating European culture. Youth councillors spend hours and hours trying to convince black youth from appropriating European culture, as young blacks are often not sensitive to the psychological damage Europeans endure because of it.

      Televisions, doors, fixing stuff, electricity, banks, toilets, and many other objects and concepts where burned in a big fire to symbolize the end of bigotry in 1985.

      • Martel

        Below a picture taken at a symbolical burning of European-made cars to remember the legacy of African racism:

      • borogirl54

        Actually Motown did the opposite. It sent their talent roster to charm school to learn how to appeal to white audiences.

        • Dale McNamee

          And the songs were singable & understood by everyone…

          How many Motown songs are part of Karaoke (sp?) ?

    • JackKrak

      Excellent point – they should also give up the clothes they wear, the food they eat and the medicine that keeps them alive.

      It kind of begs the question of what exactly they would be able to “keep” if it’s all about holding on to what you invented.

      What exactly do they get to keep?

    • pcmustgo

      It’s not just that. Asians, Latinos imitate Black culture and they have no problem with it. East Indians also whine a lot about cultural appropriation.

      And you’re leaving out white/european literature, film, art, sports, fashion, culture and music.

      These people genuinally believe “whites don’t have a culture” because they see some white chick in an Indian print dress listening to hip hop.

  • MekongDelta69

    Oh geez – I hope not.

    I wouldn’t want the loss of (c)rap music to be a “nightmare come true.”

    “Houston rap legend Scarface, of the pioneering gangsta rap group Geto Boys…”

    I’m gonna change my name to D’Shawntavious Muhammed Raykwon, so I can be a ‘legend’ too…

  • Katherine McChesney

    Disgusting. The White race has been infected with a deadly virus, the symptom of which is imitating black culture.

    • bigone4u

      Great minds think alike. You beat me to it.

    • So CAL Snowman

      The television acts as the carrier for the virus, just like fleas were the carrier for the bubonic plague.

  • David Ashton

    “Porn sex, hard drugs & blacknrap”. The replacement “culture”.

  • bigone4u

    All forms of “black culture” (an oxymoron) are vulgar, crass, misogynistic, racist, and Satanic. When I asked one of my students at the university which musical perfomer I should feature in the new edition of one of my books, this cute young, innocent looking white girl replied, “Fifty cent.” I was thinking Herman’s Hermits until I looked up Fifty Cent and the lyrics to his nonsensical illiterate babblings that are called music by some. What a disgusting wake up that was for me.

    • Tarczan

      Hey genius boy, it’s “fitty cent”.

    • MBlanc46

      You definitely date yourself by admitting that you know who Herman’s Hermits were. How about Gerry and the Pacemakers?

      • Kenner

        Now it’s just our pacemakers….

      • Katherine McChesney

        Hahahaha. My first concert in the 60’s was a revue. Herman’s Hermits were the stars. My ticket cost $5. It was held in the daytime, a weekday I remember. The auditorium was packed with Whites of all ages.

    • Cal Lee

      Good to know that such an open minded and non racist person such as you are a University professor, you are the kind if loser that I love to debate with and tear a new asshole in front of students. We studied white culture..War, murder, massacre, apartheid, slavery, goth weirdo medieval satanic….yeah id rip you a new one with facts and have your students laughing at you.

    • Cal Lee

      Black culture in Africa was Matrilineal and of the woman, Africa had female rulers, Europeans had the mysoginistic patrilineal male dominate culture and treated woman as property. White women had to fight white males alongside blacks in America for their rights. So I dont know how you are judging in light of the SAVAGERY of “white history” and “white culture”.

  • Tom_in_Miami


  • It’s funny.

    Something is becoming more white and less black, yet I’m not happy about it.

    • WR_the_realist

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. A failing civilization is a failing civilization, regardless of which race is failing.

    • 1Forced_Registration

      You know, I still get out and play. I’m not afraid to write a hip hop tune and throw it in the mix — though I would never consider myself a ‘rapper’, nor even really our singer to be much of a rapper. My few ‘hip-hop’ tunes may have guitar in them featuring everything from a Link Wray style riffs to Rammstein style riffs or even straight blues. Its just one much genre to me, even if I don’t like very much of it. I’ve played everything from classical to country. In the 90’s I had a few rap-n-roll tunes, so its not anything new to me to mix genres.

      I’m not afraid to do backing tracks for rappers, gangster rapper pretenders (as most are) where FL Studio can’t cut it. The way I see it, work is work, the kids that populate the bars like it, and its one more writing credit if one of these groups happens to actually make it to the big time somewhere. A lot of these kids have forgotten what a real musician can do with an instrument. I don’t mind at all getting up and reminding them. FL Studio has put many a bass player and drummer out of work, but it can’t hold a candle to what a veteran guitar player can do. Now I can’t play out 15-20 nights a month like I could when I was in my 20’s, but if you are playing clubs you have to write for what those clubs will tolerate to some degree.

      Forget crying about hip-hop. Cry about all of the digital studio tools putting actual musicians out of work. Unless I’m at a place that has worn out cover tunes — if its original music, I’m just as likely to see people playing off of a CD or dragging out a laptop as I am actual musicians. When I stopped playing surf music, this was the world I walked into if I wanted to stay playing. A lot of it has to do with economics. The clubs don’t pay well, and if you can eliminate two or even three people to pay for the price of a laptop, breakout box, and a mixer — you come out very much ahead over the course of a year.

      In the 90’s the rappers would show up with mix-tapes, but it still has actual players on those tapes in most of the positions. That isn’t the case anymore. Its easy to make your own CD’s. Other than microphones, home recording equipment has become fairly cheap — and you can record on your PC — or even create entirely on the PC. The gig I played this week, one of the bartenders had a degree in audio engineering, but couldn’t find a job doing it. Just another cause of technology putting people out of work.

      I’ve done strange double bills with rappers, even gangster rappers. I’m far more likely to see a dance floor filled with white kids with some black kids in the crowd than vice versa. I’ve played places where its the other way around, especially in my youth. If they pay the cover, and don’t cause trouble — I don’t care. At the end of the show I go home to the county, and I forget the city exist except as a venue to play music and a chance to become a crime victim.

  • Spartacus

    “In 2013, for the first time in the 55-year-history of the Billboard Hot 100, not one black artist lodged a number-one single.”


    Too many Whites actually met them in person for that to happen .

  • So CAL Snowman

    So basically Whites are better hip-hop artists (Eminem is the No.1 selling hip hopper of all time) and are beginning to outperform and outdraw blacks despite Hip-Hop being the exclusive domain of the blacks for several decades . Whites outperform blacks and blacks are angry about it. Gee what else is new?

    • Martel

      All whites who rap sound and appear even more silly then the blacks they imitate. The reason white rappers are popular is because racial identity cannot be erased by even the most ruthless forms of propaganda. They are in desperate need for a white role model.

    • Being the “best” hip-hop artist is a lot like being an accomplished glue sniffer.

    • slash345

      I wouldn’t say that. I’d say that whites like rap music, they just prefer to listen to white rappers instead of black ones.

      Racial preference in music in other words.

      Says alot. It says that young whites still have some “in group” thinking. Or acknowledgement of race and a desire to connect with other whites on a musical level or a desire to throw their support behind a white rapper instead of a black one.

  • WR_the_realist

    I pay as little attention to the hip hop genre as possible, so someone more knowledgeable than me will have to answer this: Are white rappers allowed to use the N word?

    • slash345

      They don’t need to.

      What this means is that Whites are taking hip hop and making it their own.

      It doensn’t mean it’ll be “gangsta” and full of black related references.

      I think it’s stupid but whatever.

      I’ve noticed country music has been a big thing with young whites around my parts. I bet country will be a bigger genre of music than anything else.

      • Katherine McChesney

        I remember when country music only appealed to the lower class Whites in the south. Anyone who was educated avoided it like the plague. My father refused to all it to be played in our home.

  • Einsatzgrenadier

    The more whites adopt black “culture”, the more degenerate and uncivilized they become. This is exactly what the cultural Marxists want.

  • Oldcorporal

    New Republic being so far out in left field that it can see Pluto, it’s not surprising that such an addle-pated article was published in it. To bleeding-heart liberals, black music is always superior — ALWAYS! And if White artists start performing the same music, they’re either “stealing the black man’s music,” or they’re “a pale imitation of the real thing,” or sneering to that effect.
    Never mind that Emmett Miller, a White man from Georgia, was one of the earliest and most talented singers of some of the blues and jazz of the 20th Century. Or that if you listened to an early record of John “Spider” Koerner, Dave “Snaker” Ray, and Tony “Little Son” Glover, three European American musicians from Minnesota, you’d swear they were three black guys from the Delta.
    To the liberals, blacks are always brilliant, awesomely talented innovators; Whites are always imitators (or downright “thieves”) with minimal talent but plenty of “White privilege.” But if a group of blacks decided to start doing Irish music, full-time, then if they came anywhere close to an Irish accent the leftist critics would be raving about how the blacks “brought a new, exciting dimension to a tired old genre.” It’s as predictable as the sun rising.

    • Frank_DeScushin

      If you think that The New Republic is out to left field, these passages are from a Salon article today:

      “Black boys officially exist in a state of social death, because the law continues to tell us that their lives, when taken by white men, are legally indefensible. They have been rendered by the law dead men walking. It’s no wonder then that in so many places they act like it.  White thuggery, meanwhile, marches on, mowing down black folks at every turn, white sheets, sight unseen.” {snip}

      “The question is how should black people respond? Having seen a lot of violence in my childhood, I’m a deep believer in and practitioner of nonviolence. But in the face of unreasonable violence toward our children, why do black people owe the nation the safety of our reasonable, rational, nonviolent responses? Whether we take it to the streets or stay home and raise our sons and daughters, they are killed all the same.”


      • It is literally fiction that reads like a bad B movie script.

      • Oldcorporal

        Very typical of Salon. Another piece of leftist toilet paper.

      • Sangraal

        There is no reasoning or mediating with these people. They are simply anathema.

    • David Ashton

      How right you are – in Britain too! Our “intellectual” newspapers – Guardian, Independent and Observer – and their weekend magazines reach the level of gross self-parody week after week, page after page, in obsequiously puffing Black “singers” and “entertainers”, qualified only to some extent by equally endless stuff by or about Gay “activists” and Jewish writers, and – minimally – obituaries to “famous” leftists. Of course, there are also pages with colour pictures of starving or injured Africans next adverts for expensive handbags and designer heels, features on foreign cooking and attacks on traditional western icons or achievements. It has to be seen to be believed. Then there is TV…….

  • borogirl54

    It has been known for years by record company executives that whites buy more hip hop cd’s than blacks. They contributed to the popularity of “Gangsta Rap”.

    • Alexandra1973

      If they only knew…. *facepalm*

  • Alexandra1973

    Interestingly enough I was listening to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” on the radio (bit of a flashback to the 90s). That was back when rap didn’t have “kill whitey” and “f*** the police” lyrics.

    I actually don’t mind a few of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s numbers. It’s what everyone was listening to in high school.

    (They might want to redo “Nightmare on My Street” if you know what I mean…the black undertow….)

    • Katherine McChesney

      Rap artists were so violent in the 90’s that record business executives in Los Angeles hired security to protect them from death threats. That was in the day of Tupac Shakur.

  • MBlanc46

    Ah jeez, another cultural crisis. Apparently we need affirmative action in “hip-hop” to ensure that diversity survives.

  • MBlanc46

    Rock and roll derives from two sources: Appalachian string band music and rhythm and blues. A record sometimes considered the first rock and roll record was Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket ’88” (1951). While Brenston was the vocalist, the band was actually Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Whatever behavioral deficits plague blacks, their contribution to popular music can’t be denied.

    • WhiteGuyInJapan

      I would generally agree with this; rock’n’roll seems to be a hybrid of White and Black genres. In any case, when I listen to Elvis, I hear strong Western swing influences (a largely White genre). Jimi Hendrix started playing blues (Black) and switched to hard rock (White), assumedly to make some money.

  • RHG

    As far as I am concerned it’s just another extension of the dumbing down of the white populations. Why take time to learn an instrument when you see a bunch of black morons, being pushed by the media under the guise of “diversity” making gobs of money for no talent. A lot of white guys are going to say, “Geez, I can do that too and I don’t have to learn to actually play an instrument or even have to know anything about real music”.

    • David Ashton

      Not just “morons”. “Ex” gangsters, “ex” drug-pushers, “ex” pimps.

  • Lord Sandwich

    I’m glad I got to experience when MTV first started, and played 100% white music. They didn’t even play Michael Jackson until years later. Nobody cared what black people did or wanted. I got to live in that world when I was a young man. Blacks were irrelevant. Nobody felt they had to cater to them. Our culture reigned supreme. We didn’t have to pretend to like a bunch of nonsensical rap. They can keep their mindless jungle drum “music”. Preferably, we need to reject their inferior culture and celebrate our own.

    • benvad

      What a time, bit you can thank def jams Rick Rubin for the catastrophe that’s plagued us to this day.

      • Brian

        He redeemed himself some with the late-period Johnny Cash albums though.

    • Massif1

      That’s because whites are watching and paying.

  • antiquesunlight

    This is embarrassing.

    What makes rap bad is the stupidity and artlessness of the lyrics, the insistence on confrontational (“real”) subject matter and personae, and numbing, repetitive, simplistic music. But rap has the potential to be interesting. White people could possibly steer it into the realm of art, but I’m not holding my breath. More than likely, they’ll just imitate black gangsta themes and anger.

    • Magician

      I don’t get it. The rappers murmur as if a rhyme is something extremely fascinating and one of the greatest inventions of all time.

      • antiquesunlight

        “Don’t let me lose you, I’m not tryna confuse you
        When I let loose wit this uzi and just shoot through your Isuzu
        You get the message? Am I getting through to you?”

        That’s a quote from the modern day Shakespeare, aka Eminem. An old friend tried to convince me that is a brilliant lyric. I wasn’t persuaded, to say the least.

        As to your last sentence, I recently read a report of statistics released by some cellphone app dating service that claimed that white men are the most desired by women of all races – except black women. It said black women go for black men. It also said asian women are the most desired by men of all races (black women are the least desired). For myself, I’m blonde haired and blue eyed, and I’d like my children to be also…

  • I cannot see it happening. One simple reason is that in 25 years time the demographics will contain much fewer whites. What would be the chances of ‘anything’ getting ‘whiter’ in the future, as the situation currently stands?

  • Vito Powers

    This is just guessing on my part, but I would bet that the music producers/recording studios are tired of putting up with the dumb, illiterate Negros who initially monopolized Hip Hop. Remember how Fabian was created as an Elvis clone or the Monkees as a Copy of the Beatles? The recording industry is the entity behind white hip hop.

  • Brian

    I would hope that in 25 years rap is deader than disco. Blacks used to have jazz, and whites had rock– now we’re fighting over THIS garbage?

  • Dale McNamee

    Black or White…Hip-Hop is still crap…

  • iberianpride

    It’s a bad analogy. Rock started in the early 50’s, and whites created it by mixing R&B and Country. Rap started in the early 70’s in New York (the Bronx to be specific) and became known nationwide in 1979, with the release of rappers delight. There weren’t any white rappers till the beastie boys, who came along in the mid 80s. Every few years they say the same crap, about whites taking it over, with the beasties in the 80s, vanilla ice in 1990, house of pain in the early 90s, Eminem in the late 90s etc. It will never happen.

    • Tarczan

      Vanilla Ice is pretty interesting, I watch him on “Vanilla Ice goes Amish” and he has another building show he is on. He is a very good builder, typical white guy in that he likes to build stuff. He doesn’t smoke or drink, I’ve never heard any of his songs, but he seems like a nice guy.

  • Massif1

    The next thing blacks will create is American bongo-drums genre of music and trademark it so that whites won’t steal it. Anyway, white people are going to rap concerts and actually paying for music – they should be controlling the music market.

  • Massif1

    EDM producers (mostly white) generate more money than current hip-hop goons.

  • pcmustgo

    Most white rock sounds NOTHING like the original black rock. It’s only called “rock” on some technicality.

    Rock has a lot of country influence too.

  • Magician

    I hear the song “Royals” by Lorde everywhere I go nowadays. I do like the song also. And I was just curious and looked it up and learned that she is currently in a relationship with an Asian guy seven years older than her who works as a photographer.

    • Magician


  • dd121

    Blacks are so stupid they even have to sub-contract out their [email protected]@ering.

  • 1Forced_Registration

    Unfortunately, the economics of bars, and playing in bar bands have probably made that a change that is going to stay. If you don’t financially compensate actual musicians, and good songwriters — you start to get a lot less of them. The lowest common denominator becomes the standard. Not that most bar bands were all that great before, but its definitely worse now. Most usually had two maybe three songs I would consider good/great tunes. Now I’m lucky if its one.

    I hear you. I feel like the musician is squeezed from all sides. Where you used to sell a CD, now you sell a couple plays on spotify *(or they download you for free) for 1/8000 of the amount. Plenty of bad artists with bad CDs, and larger record labels helped force that change. As did club owners that wanted 50% or more of merchandise sales. We got to the point where we gave away CD’s to people that came to shows as an incentive and promotional tool. The money was sucked out of it anyway, and since it was cheap to cut them, we just just raised the cover enough to make up for it. Our money was made from shopping music for TV/Movies/Commercials and other uses, and a bit off of performances anyway. That model doesn’t work for everyone. Its unlikely to work for what I’m doing now.

    I’m more of a purist, but with people problems, and low returns I may end up using those tools myself. I can’t imagine even being truly happy with digital drums though. I’m just not a drummer, and I don’t think like a drummer.